Education and the state of the Filipino family

I went to a public primary school in Pampanga in the 1950s. If I remember correctly, the language that all my first grade teachers used was Kapampangan. My classmates and I were taught to read and write in English and Pilipino, the term used for the national language at the time, by teachers who freely used the local language of our province as the language of instruction. And that was long before mother-tongue-based multilingual education became policy.

Even though my father was a lawyer, my family was never wealthy. But I had a clear advantage over most of my classmates. By the time I entered Grade 1, I knew my alphabet and could already read and write simple words. This was largely due to my mother, who took a keen interest in her children’s education. For her, a good, solid education was all we needed to secure our future. Although she herself was unable to complete her studies because of the war, she seemed to know everything there was to know at school. Fluent in English, she preferred to use Kapampangan to explain the most difficult things to us.

Also, we had books like Rizal’s novels and magazines like Reader’s Digest in the house. My dad loved reciting poetry in English and Kapampangan, and I guess that instilled in us a deep interest in the wonder of words. But Kapampangan remained the language at home. I learned Tagalog by borrowing from a neighbour’s collection of Liwayway and Bulaklak magazines and Tagalog komiks. In high school, my reading fare was greatly enriched by the mostly unread books donated by the United States in the city library.

As far as I can remember, the problems of education in our country have mainly been reduced to such issues as the language used in education, the quality and availability of textbooks and other educational resources, the competence of teachers, adequate classrooms, etc. they are, these questions stem from an internal vision of the education system.

In my opinion, the most important societal factor in shaping learning outcomes is the state of our families. I understand this in its sociological sense, that is to say in the capacity of the family to provide the social, motivational and material support necessary for the effective participation of the child in the educational process. In this respect, perhaps nothing sums up the conditions and prospects for the future development of a society other than the state of its families.

The Conditional Cash Transfer Program, or Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino (4Ps) Program, initiated by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and greatly expanded by President Benigno S. Aquino III, is a project that is expressly aimed at providing financial assistance to families who have young toddlers. school. The Philippine version of this program, originating in Latin America, requires heads of households to attend the monthly “family development session” as one of the conditions for receiving cash assistance. I have personally witnessed the course of the seminar and have come to believe that this is a valuable, albeit underappreciated, feature of the program. I wrote about the nature of this seminar in a previous column (“Educating the Filipino Family,” 11/21/12).

The entire 4P program has been criticized as largely a waste of precious resources, an incitement to indolence and a source of corruption. Its impact on academic achievement has been dismissed as minimal at best. I have a different point of view. Dropout rates have dropped significantly at all levels as a result of the program. The significant increase in the number of children graduating from high school in families that previously had no high school graduates among their members is a reliable indicator of the program’s success. But I believe that the implementation of the program can be further refined, starting with the proper identification of the truly deserving families and those who are ready to “escape” from the program, but not necessarily from poverty.

Ongoing evaluation of the program, both of its intended and unintended consequences, is essential to ensure its success as a form of intervention that aims to be both redistributive and developmental. To achieve its goals, the government should consider substantially increasing cash grants to deserving families and involving teachers and local school boards more actively in the program. A quick glance at the current economic situation of the country’s 25.5 million families would suffice to show how the simple need to survive can take up all the time of parents and make it difficult for Filipino families to support the education of their children. children.

In his August 13 column, my fellow columnist Inquirer Mahar Mangahas of Social Weather Stations notes: “Almost half of the country’s heads of household rate their families as Mahirap (poor), only a fifth rate themselves as Hindi Mahirap (not poor), and nearly a third feel borderline. In June 2022, he said, the country’s poor said they would need at least 15,000 pesos a month “not to feel poor”, and that they would need an additional 6,000 pesos “to reach their minimum.

The amount of 15,000 pesos only covers household expenses for one month and does not include other expenses such as transportation and cell phone charging. Compare the maximum amount of less than P2,000 a month that a family with three qualified school-age children can get from the 4P scheme, with the P6,000 that poor families say they need as extra income.

The gap may as well be termed a social responsibility deficit. We owe it to the children of the country’s poor to close this gap.

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Norma A. Roth